Lost in Translation: Academic and managerial discourses of knowledge transfer
This thesis investigates how Knowledge Transfer (KT) Policy in Scotland is understood, translated and put into practice by managers and academics in a new university in Scotland. KT Policy has entered the higher education arena as the ‘third sector’ alongside teaching and research: it puts new demands on universities, and could be said to attempt to redefine the relationship between the university and wider society. The (relatively few) studies of KT Policy highlight the problematic nature of the term ‘knowledge transfer’ and there is a substantial literature that illustrates the difficulty of ‘translating’ policy into practice. In understanding KT and its implementation, this thesis argues that account needs to be taken of the fact that in the expanded UK higher education (HE) sector there is no single idea of a university and thus the reception of KT policy needs to be understood in ways that are sensitive to the various (and possibly conflicting) meanings attached to the policy by managers and academics. The thesis adopts an interpretive methodological approach that draws on critical discourse analysis (CDA) to uncover the meanings attached to KT Policy as it is translated and enacted. KT policy is viewed as a ‘text’ that can be read in a variety of ways, and that is amenable to alternative readings that may be at variance with those encoded by policy-makers. Research methods include document analysis, semi-structured interviews, and observant participation. The findings illustrate how managers and academics attach multiple and conflicting meanings to KT policy, with quite significant implications for policy implementation. The different meanings of the policy are explained in terms of contrasting managerial and academic discourses. This study adds to knowledge about KT and also adds to knowledge about policy and its reception when it enters the university environment. Analysis of how policy is received and communicated using a CDA approach illuminates the university as a space through which ideas flow and are shaped by the meanings attached to them in that process. This case of translation of KT policy has more general applicability in terms of its illumination of the enactment of meaning in different ways in different institutional cultures.